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MUTANT by Peter Clement

MUTANT

By Peter Clement

Pub Date: July 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-345-44337-3
Publisher: Ballantine

Former ER doctor Clement, author of paperback medical thrillers, moves into hardcover without straying from his habitual turf of plagues and viruses. This time, the fatal consequences flow from changes in the structure of human DNA brought about by plants rebuilt by nasty genetic engineers. The first victim is a three-year-old on Oahu who dies from “bird flu.” In New York City Hospital’s ER, Dr. Richard Steele sees a young man suffering a near-fatal allergic reaction because he accidentally ate nut DNA (added to a newfangled tofu to make it hardier). Then the widowed Steele himself topples over with a heart condition; he survives, but his young son is angry with Dad for nearly leaving him an orphan. Dr. Kathleen Sullivan runs tests on genetically engineered plants and warns the medical community that infectious strands of naked DNA have genes that may jump cross-species. Will South Pacific outbreaks of bird flu (borne by one of those pesky little green mutants) reach New York? Turns out the cold-hearted heads of the Biofeed Corporation, criminally responsible for huge accidents with their genetic vectors, have created bird feed that’s a deadly bio-weapon. Eventually, bodies start dropping in Manhattan, swamping Dr. Steele’s ER.

Pretty shallow, despite all the gene talk, but Clement’s grim depiction of horrific medical consequences will have readers looking askance at their breakfast cereal.